We're happy to announce that we've completed 50% of our goal to digitize every cemetery in Israel — aiming to make it the first country in the world to have all of its gravestones preserved online and searchable, and we're making all of this data available on MyHeritage for free.
Cemeteries play a vital role in family history research and society in general. Most of the world's cemeteries have never been systematically documented nor has their information made available online. Also, age and exposure to the elements are rendering gravestones illegible, making this project even more urgent.
In 2014, we launched a global initiative with BillionGraves to digitally preserve the world’s cemeteries. The MyHeritage team even went out and digitized an entire cemetery, taking more than 50,000 photos in a single day.
When photographing and documenting gravestones using the excellent BillionGraves mobile application, the precise GPS coordinates of every gravestone are preserved. This makes it easy for others to locate and visit graves of family members and also allows volunteers to see which areas of a cemetery have already been photographed, avoiding duplication and maximizing productivity.
We have extended that original initiative, pledging to photograph all cemeteries and gravestones in Israel and to transcribe all the information on each and every gravestone.
As part of the global initiative we launched with BillionGraves earlier this year, the MyHeritage team recruited a group of enthusiastic volunteers to continue our efforts to digitize cemeteries.
After successfully digitizing a medium sized cemetery of historical significance earlier this year (see video), we decided to undertake our biggest challenge yet - to digitize Israel's largest cemetery - with over 200,000 graves. So earlier this week, we embarked on a one-of-a-kind project to photograph all headstones of the huge Holon cemetery in central Israel.
This was one of largest events of its kind ever organized - in the world!
The best aspect of the event was the true collaboration between MyHeritage and all leading genealogy organizations in Israel, in addition to MyHeritage power users. In total, some 120 people joined our initiative and participated, and approximately 150,000 gravestone photos were taken throughout the day! It was heart warming to see such collaboration among so many people who care about genealogy, from all ages, and all groups, working together to create an incredible resource that is free for all to use.
The day began at 8:30am - with MyHeritage employees and volunteers arriving at our offices - and ended at 6:30pm.
As part of our global initiative to digitize cemeteries, MyHeritage was contacted by a couple with an interesting idea that allowed them to embark on an international adventure.
Michael Kerr and his wife, Sabrina Rowe, decided to leave the comfort of their home, and bicycle across Europe, stopping to photograph entire cemeteries on the way. All the photos are being shared with the community for free on MyHeritage and BillionGraves.com.
Schelly Talalay Dardashti, MyHeritage's US Genealogy Advisor, will demonstrate the information that can be revealed about your family via gravestones. Daniel Horowitz, MyHeritage’s Chief Genealogist, will join us to discuss our recent partnership with BillionGraves and how you can use their mobile app to help preserve cemeteries for future generations.
Register for free here: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/261346007.
Date: Wednesday March 26, 2014.
1 PM CDT
2 PM EDT
6 PM GMT
(To find the time of the webinar for your location, use this Time Zone Converter.)
We look forward to seeing you!
Eighty MyHeritage employees from our headquarters in Israel arrived in full force early Sunday morning to the Segula Cemetery in Petah Tikva, Israel, to digitize gravestones using the BillionGraves mobile application. We felt it was important to practice this ourselves, before we call upon others to join us in this initiative. By gaining hands-on experience, we aimed to create best practices, improve the product and fine-tune methodologies for digitizing cemeteries all around the world in the most efficient manner.
So what brings a large group of young folks with smartphones to a cemetery? We recently announced a global initiative, together with BillionGraves, to digitally preserve the world’s cemeteries. It is important to digitize cemeteries because of the key role that gravestones play in family history and in society in general. Most of the world's cemeteries have never been systematically documented nor has their information made available online. In addition, age and exposure to the elements are rendering gravestones illegible, making this project even more urgent.